North Idaho Iceman Vol-2

This is the second and final in a series of blog posts documenting some of my experiences recording ice for Ultimate Ice 2 HD Pro Sound Effects Library. Recorded over the last few months of 2011 and into 2012 with a Sennheiser MKH-8040ST microphone set to XY at 120 or 90 degrees.

Location: Muskrat Lake

Back in early December 2011 while I was recording trains I came across a large private lake not far from the ranch. It had been very cold for a few days but the sun was shining and the lake was covered with a nice medium think layer of ice. I set the microphone up close to the edge of the lake and attempted to crack the soft shoreline with my feet. I soon found out that the ice was thin there and decided I would come back later in the day with a sledgehammer and give it a good hit.

Ice Recording Muskrat Lake

I hit the lake ice from a location about 10 meters to the side of the microphone. I had to reach out from the edge as I knew the ice was soft at my feet. The hammer broke through a few times and I had a hard time pulling it out of the ice hole. I wish I had the courage to go out on the lake but since I was not sure of the depth of the water and thickness of the ice I played it safe and stayed on the edge. While I was recording I heard the dispersion sound waves travel across the lake but they were not very loud. At one point during a take a dog barked in the distance and that was louder than the pinging (I left the bark in the take, it sounds cool pitched down).

Location: Mountain Pond

I was intrigued by the potential for sounds with the sledgehammer so on my way back from Muskrat Lake I drove up the hill behind the ranch where there is a pond about 1 acre in size. Since it is much colder up there at 3500 feet above sea level the ice was much thicker. I was able to set the microphone out on the ice and get out in the middle and take my swings. The size of the pond did not yield much dispersion pinging but it sure made a good thump.

Ice Recording Pond

Next up were the smaller retaining ponds that are scattered along the side of the steep road leading up to the top of the mountain. The were frozen over fairly well but a few still had standing water under the 2 inch ice layer. I hit these a few times and some cracked and gave way. The cracks would rip right under the microphone and after this I would stomp and drop things on the sheets of ice.

Ice Recording Pond

A few of these little ponds also gave me the opportunity to use my body weight and apply steady pressure until they would break apart and fall into themselves with a small sea of muddy water. The trick is to know when to jump out before they collapse. I never really got the timing right on this and got soaked almost every time.

Location: My Ranch Foley Pit

One of the things I wanted to record for this collection was impacts and debris from solid chunks of ice. As it was starting to get colder earlier in the winter I left some plastic tarp covers outside to retain the melting water that built up during the day. I draped the tarps over some firewood to create indents to hold the water. At night they would freeze over and then melt a little the next day. Any snow or rain would be captured by the tarp and when frozen over it would be easy to sperate the ice chunks from the tarp.

Ice Recording Ranch

After a couple of weeks I had enough ice chunks to record. I had to make sure it was cold enough outside so they would remain solid. I set up a multi microphone rig at the concrete slab I have on the ranch and began dropping and hitting the chucks. They turned out well and now I have to figure out how to even bigger chunks made.

Things I learned while out in the field:
1. 99% of time recording ice you will get wet. Prepare and bring towels, hand warmers, etc.

2. It’s almost always noise outside no matter where you are recording. Ice is very difficult to get clean recordings of. Between birds, dogs, planes, trains, traffic and fisherman it’s always hit and miss. Be patient.

3. Check you microphone rig now and then. Make sure all is dry and not to cold.

4. Be safe. Use your best judgement as to how far you are willing to go. Ice is slippery and falling is not a good idea.

January 2012 Snowstorms

Recording Snow Sounds January 2012

Wind Recording 2012 The third week of January 2012 proved to be a goldmine for snow sound effects here on the ranch. The typical North Idaho winter finally arrived bringing with it lots of snow, wind and freezing temperatures.

The week started with a bunch of snow falling along with some very cold temperatures. As the winter storm progressed and the weather systems above were battling it out for supremacy, the wind came. Not a soft blowing winter wind but some strong sustained blizzard like winds with gusts up to 65 MPH.

I shot some video from my front door of the cold dry snow blowing off the trees and around the yard and then decided it was time to veture outside to the garden area and set the MKH-8040ST up near the fence. I can usually get some good whistling through the fence and the power lines above and this time was no exception. Some really strong gusts swept by and really knocked the mic around a bit. I was in such a rush to get set up that I left the Sound Devices 702 low cut filter set to off. I was concerned that the gusts would stop soon so I just set my levels and rolled.

During a break in the heavy gusts I did manage to get the low cut filter on and recorded a little more. By this time the storm had settled down and I was freezing. It was 15 degrees Fahrenheit with the wind chill at approximately -5 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. I did not want to stay outside much longer as I was concerned about the MKH-8040ST freezing up.

Snow Falling Impacts

Later in the week after the snow had piled up on the roof I patiently waited to get the sound of the snow sliding off the roof and falling onto my deck. When it’s very cold the snow stays and accumulates on my metal roof. As soon as it warms up a little and the sun comes out it can slide at any second. The trick is to guess when. The roof edges start to drip and after a few hours I can hear it creaking and clunking from inside the house. At that point I have a few minutes before it all comes down. I was ready this time. It all came down.

Snow Recording 2012 Roof

I also was able to record the sound of snow pack hitting the ground as I shoveled the snow off my deck. I got some very nice thumps and debris spray close up while at the same time getting some much need exercise.

I also pulled branches on the trees to make the snow fall off. This was tricky because you don’t know from which place on the tree the snow will fall from. All hell can break loose and you can get covered in snow and large trees do not move that easy. I have pulled to hard and landed on my ass way too many times for my comfort.

Snow Falling Off Trees

By now we have seen four storms come in during the week and the last one was after some freezing rain. Overnight the rain had turned to snow and piled up on the trees. There was very little wind and the next morning I headed out to the north east corner of my ranch to a grove of fir trees and heard some very nice falling snow. The snow was falling on it’s own and with a little help from a light breeze. As the morning warmed up the snow was falling continuously.

I recorded from many locations looking for the best angle and I had some luck. The falling snow was unpredictable and I was just winging it most of the time. I tried not to get too close under the trees as I never knew where the snow was going to fall off. I recorded some close falling sounds but the best part was hearing the distant ones from high up the tall trees making their way to the ground.

I was lucky that the morning was quiet and there was a soft wind. A stronger wind would have masked the sound of the crystals tumbling over each other.

Snow Recording 2012 Trees

Snow Recording 2012 Trees

Snow Recording 2012 Trees

A Few Snow Recording Tips

1. Observe and learn the best times to record the different kinds of snow. Wet snow occurs during a warm up or after the sun has come out and spread its heat on everything. You should best get this at the start of the warm up as the dripping that can occur can ruin your recordings depending on where you are located. Dry snow is best recorded when it’s really cold in the morning or at night when there is less activity going on in the world, you get cleaner recordings.

2. Wear non-synthetic clothing. I do not wear any “plastic” winter clothing as it can make noise when you move around or if any snow hits your body. Don’t laugh but I have a pair of pull on leather UGG boots I wear for recording snow. They have no buckles, zippers or laces to make noise that can destroy any chance of a good clean take.

3. If you are recording soft, low level snow sounds it’s best to stand away from the microphones. Sometimes this is not possible so make sure you have a comfortable spot to stand and don’t move. Breathe lightly and make sure your feet are planted securely as the longer you stand the more chance of slipping or adjusting yourself which can get in the recording.

4. I really don’t like to record everything with a Windjammer over the microphone but with snow it is almost a requirement. I’ve had lots and lots of snow fall on the microphone and this lessens any chance of the “hitting the microphone” plastic click sound.

5. When recording snow blizzard wind turn that low cut filter on. I tend to use 80Hz but sometimes 160Hz works depending on the rumble from the wind.

6. This probably goes without saying but if you plan on being outside in the bitter cold for any longer than 10 minutes, dress appropriately and keep yourself warm… especially your hands. Be safe and pack your flask.


Here is what can happen when they don’t plow the road and you don’t have four wheel drive:

North Idaho Iceman Vol-1

Date: January 13, 2012

Ice Jan 2012This is the first in a series of blog posts documenting my experiences recording ice for the forthcoming ULTIMATE ICE 2 HD SFX Library. Recorded during the week ending on January 13, 2011 with a Sennheiser MKH-8040ST microphone set to XY at 120 or 90 degrees depending on my mood. As I was leaving Round Lake today one of the ice fisherman yelled “See you around iceman” hence the name of the blog post and sound file.

This winter has been strange. Not a lot of snowfall lots of rain and then cold. A few weeks ago it rained for what seemed like days and then it got bitter cold. The snow melted, the rivers and lakes rose and then froze solid. This only happens once a season if we are lucky and it presented the perfect opportunity to record ice, some BIG ice.

Location: Springy Point State Park

This park sits on the South shore of The Pend Oreille river and is two miles from my ranch. The river level has been lowered and the shores have ice up. When it rained it filled all the pockets near the shore with lots of water. When they froze, the water evaporated and left a half inch thick sheet of ice. These left a huge air pocket under the sheet, sometimes 12 inches or more. With just the right amount of pressure with my foot I was able to break these sheets and they made a great heavy ice smash.

Ice Jan 2012

I also recorded the ice sheets on the river next to the shoreline. They can stretch out hundreds of feet and are constantly being pushed and shoved towards the shore by the wind. I took a careful walk out on to this thin ice and it splintered and cracked. I did fall through a few times but the water is only a few inches deep so no worries.

Ice Jan 2012

Location: Cocolalla Lake

Cocolalla Lake is an accessible, 800-acre year-round fishery fed by Cocolalla Creek with an average depth of 26 feet. It is popular for ice fishing in winter. Boat access is available on the northeast end adjacent to the campground. Shoreline fishing access is primarily limited to the northeast end and the east shoreline. This is where I started recording. The ice was not very thick, around 3 to 4 inches and after talking with a few fisherman, who were very cautious, I only ventured out a hundred feet or so.

Ice Jan 2012

When the sun rises and heats the lake it starts to flex and crack. I was able to get some decent cracking and pinging sounds but the close proximity of highway 95 made recording difficult. I did notice that you can hear the cracks coming toward you. They make subtle pings that get louder the closer they get. A very cool sound and I was lucky that a few cracks ripped very close to the microphone. During one crack I felt the ice sheet drop down a little and that’s when I decided to head back to shore. On the way I met some fisherman who showed up and they told me about Round Lake after I explained the traffic noise issue. So, I headed to Round Lake State Park which was just a few miles up the road.

Ice Jan 2012

Location: Round Lake State Park

Round Lake State Park is situated in 142 acres of forest surrounding a 58-acre lake at an elevation of 2,122 feet 10 miles South of Sandpoint. The lake is the product of glacial activity dating back to the Pleistocene Epoch.

Ice Jan 2012

When I arrived the sun was peaking in the Southern sky and I could hear some ice ping activity. It was fairly quiet except for the occasional car and train passing by in the distance. I had no idea where to set up so I began walking towards the middle. I was told by the fisherman there that the ice was 8 inches thick and possibly thicker in the middle of the lake. I worked my way out towards the middle recording 5 minutes at a time. The cracks are very unpredictable and sometimes far and few between.

Ice Jan 2012

As I was just about in the center of the lake I recorded a crack that went right under the microphones. There were other cracks already there and this deep sound crack was along the same line as another one. I had the microphones very close to the ice to try and minimize background noise. This worked OK but next time I might go very early in the morning when it’s much more quiet and position it a little further away. This ice cracking was amazing and the microphones don’t capture the full range of the sound for some reason. All in all it was great fun and I plan on going back as many times as I can before it snows or the lake melts away to spring.

The adventures of the North Idaho Iceman have begun. Enjoy -Frank

Saw Mill Recording – November 28, 2011

Back in November 2011 I had to opportunity to record my neighbors saw mill. I was doing something outside and I heard the mill off in the distance, it was really quiet that day for some reason. The mill is on top of the mountain behind my ranch and I always wanted to get some recordings so I called him up and asked if it would be alright to come on up and record. I don’t know how he heard his phone ring but somehow he did because when I arrived the mill was very loud and hearing a phone would be difficult unless he was on break.

I brought my MKH-8040ST mounted on a boom pole and quickly set up with the video camera and started rolling. He was at the end of this particular job and only had a few cedar logs left to rip and plane to size. I could not believe how loud this 15+ years old, 36″ saw blade was. I tried to monitor with my headphones but that was a no go so I popped in the earplugs and stayed out the way as best I could. The levels on The SD-702 were almost set to zero.

After a while the blade heated up and warped so he had to stop for a few minutes to let it cool down. These blades are very expensive and I hoped that the blade was OK. He told me it happens when the stringy bark from the cedar gets between the log planks and the blade and puts to much pressure on the blade. He then moved on to planing the fresh cut planks.

When he was done planing all the rough cut planks he let me record the conveyor belt below the blade which made a very cool deep belt driven motor sound. He also turned on and off the air controlled hydraulics that help hold the log and planks in place as they pass through the blade. It mad all kinds of cool air injection noises and then sets the blade guides in place for a decent metal clank effect.

It was a quick recording session and I hope to get back up to his mill in the future to record more. There are lots of other vintage mechanical gadgets at the mill and I would jump at the chance to go again. Enjoy! -Frank

Please Note: The Soundcloud demo is downloadable at 24Bit 48kHz.


Saw Mill 11-2011

Saw Mill 11-2011

Saw Mill 11-2011

Saw Mill 11-2011

Saw Mill 11-2011

Saw Mill 11-2011

Saw Mill 11-2011


Train Tension Symphony

For the last 3 weeks I have never left the ranch without my MKH-8040ST recording rig and today I was thankful that I brought them on a simple errand run into town. Just my luck that there was a tain traffic jam in the City of Sandpoint Idaho. Three trains were attempting to pass through on the same set of tracks at the same time and there was some maintenance going on as well. I heard the train horn as I was at the bank this morning and it was the long set of honks i’ve learned over time that they do when on this rail line that runs East to West.

I was only a mile away from my favorite spot to record them stopping and departing and I beat the train and had just a minute to set up before the first train passed and stopped. Soon after this train stopped another train pulled in on the far side and stopped. Train Jam! The first train pulls forward and leaves without much noise. I waited around for ten minutes and decided it would be better to go around to the other side of the tracks and get close up. I had to get back on the road and drive a half mile around to the other side. All the time I’m hoping the train does not leave and it did not. I set up the microphones about a meter away from the rusty old coal cars on the other side of a tall weed patch and waited… again.

After 20 minutes or so another train passed by the far side and when it had completely traveled onto the dual lane tracks the close train started to leave. Ka-bang! Those rusty old cars make some noise! Screeches, squeaks, metal straining, it’s all in there… and good for you too!

Here is a clip of the 3rd train departing played back at 35% of normal speed. Please note there is no processing except some L2 limiting. This is the slowed down sound.

Train Recording 12-20-2011

Here are some select portions of the raw normal playback speed recording:

Train Recording 12-20-2011